WHEN Ruth Madeley was just five years old, her life was transformed thanks to a new wheelchair from charity Whizz-Kidz.
Seeing his young daughter able to push herself around in the playground and have fun more easily with friends, dad Geoff was keen to do something to show his appreciation to the charity.
Now, more than two decades later, that something is raising thousands of pounds and dedicating countless hours of his time as a long-serving volunteer for Whizz-Kidz.
Ruth was born with spina bifida and scoliosis, uses a wheelchair as she has trouble walking.
The former Mount St Joseph School pupil said: “Before, the wheelchairs on the NHS were the closest fit you could find. They are much better now.
“Back then, it was a large, medium or small and I had the small but, because it was heavy and clumpy, I couldn’t push myself in it.”
During a visit to a mobility exhibition in Manchester they spotted a Barbie pink wheelchair which was much more suited to Ruth’s frame.
While there, they also found out about the charity Whizz-Kidz, which aims to ensure every disabled child has an opportunity to be something special — a kid.
Father-of-two Geoff, of New Drake Green, Westhoughton said: “The charity had only been going a few months and I managed to get in touch with them. It was so new, we were just in the right place at the right time.”
Whizz-Kidz provided funding for a made-to-measure wheelchair which would have cost about £1,600 in 1991.
Ruth, who paid almost £4,000 for her current wheelchair, said: “It was not cheap but it was something that was needed for an active and free childhood.
“Getting the right chair didn’t just affect me, it affected my entire family as my mum and dad were not lugging this heavy wheelchair about.
“It was luminous pink. As a youngster who needs something, you want it to look as fun and amazing as possible. Something your friends will be jealous of. It meant a lot to get that chair.”
Geoff, who organises raffles to raise money and places collecting tins in shops around Bolton, said: “It was brilliant for her and gave her a new lease of life.”
In 2013, he raised £1,300 — enough to provide a place for a disabled child at a youth club for a whole year.
He said: “It was a gradual thing. We got the wheelchair and I said to my wife, I wouldn’t mind doing some fundraising.”
That was just the beginning of the Madeley family’s connection with the charity as Ruth began volunteering at the age of 15 and, for the past four years, has been employed as work placements manager.
Ruth, who works from home in Blackrod, said: “I finished university with a first class honours degree in English and creative writing in 2008, and I found a lot of discrimination I didn’t expect.”
Ruth has had unwavering support from her dad, mum Jacquie, and older sister Liz, aged 30, and now her job sees her helping youngsters by getting them into the workplace.
She said: “It’s something that’s very important to me. I’ve always been very passionate about disability issues.
“I’m very lucky that my mum, dad and sister are very pro-active, positive people. They’ve never let me be a victim of anything, that’s been instilled in me from a young age.
“I owe it to them, they are the ones who raised me to become a very determined person.
“I’ve been very lucky. ”
As Whizz-Kidz continues to grow, volunteers are more important than ever to help the charity continue its vital work.
Ruth said: “Now Dad has retired, he has become an obsessive fundraiser. He is amazing.”
For more information on volunteering, visit whizz-kidz.org.uk/get involved/opportunities